1902 Encyclopedia > Isaeus

Ancient Greek orator
4th century BC

ISAEUS owes his place in the decade of the Attic orators to his mastery of forensic argument; but his literary significance, in relation to the historical develop-ment of Attic prose, is not inferior to that of any other name in the series. The chronological limits of his ex-tant work fall between the years 390-353 B.C. ; and his birth may with probability be placed about 420 B.C. The Plutarchic life describes him as a Chalcidian ; Suidas, whom Dionysius follows, as an Athenian. The accounts have been reconciled by supposing that his family sprang from the settlement (Kkrjpov^ia) of Athenian citizens among whom the lands of the Chalcidian hippobotse (knights) had been divided about 509 B.C. In 411 B.C. Euboea (except Oreos) revolted from Athens ; and it would not have been strange if residents of Athenian origin had then migrated from the hostile island to Attica. Such a connexion with Euboea would explain the non-Athenian name Diagoras which is borne by the father of Iseeus, while the latter is said to have been " an Athenian by descent " (AOrjvcuos TO -jei/os). So far as we know, Isseus took no part in the public affairs of Athens. " I cannot tell," says Dionysius, what were the politics of Isseus—or whether he had any politics at all." Those words strikingly attest the profound .change which was passing over the life of the Greek cities. It would have been scarcely possible, fifty years earlier, that an eminent Athenian with the powers of Isseus should have failed to leave on record some proof of his interest in the political concerns of Athens or of Greece. But now, with the decline of personal devotion to the state, the life of an active citizen had ceased to have any necessary contact with political affairs. Professional pursuits, determined by private choice and directed to private ends, could now engross all those energies which would once have been devoted, at least in large measure, to the service of the city. The very fact that almost nothing is known about the life of Isseus is itself the most suggestive of facts. Already we are at the beginning of that transition which is to lead from the old life of Hellenic citizenship to that Hellenism whose children are citizens of the world.

There is good authority for the tradition that Isaeus was the pupil of Isocrates,— probably about 393 B.C., when Isocrates was beginning his career as a teacher, and while Isseus was not yet occupied with his special calling. Internal evidence for such intercourse may be found in the method of handling subject-matter which some extant speeches of Isseus exhibit. Though not a pupil, Isseus had certainly been a student of Lysias. A passage of Photius has been understood as meaning that personal relations had existed between Isseus and Plato; but this view appears to rest on an erroneous construction of the pas-sage in question.

The profession of Isseus was that of which Antiphon had been the first representative at Athens—that of a Aoyo-ypa^os, who composed speeches which his clients were to deliver in the law-courts. But, while Antiphon had written such speeches chiefly (as Lysias frequently) for public causes, it was with private causes that Isseus was almost exclusively concerned. The fact marks the progres-sive subdivision of labour in his calling, and the extent to which the smaller interests of private life now absorbed the attention of the citizen.

The most interesting recorded event in the career of Isseus is one which belongs to its middle period—his con-nexion with Demosthenes. Born in 384 B.C., Demosthenes attained his civic majority in 366. At this time he had already resolved to prosecute the fraudulent guardians who had stripped him of his patrimony. In prospect of such a legal contest, he could have found no better ally than Isseus, a master of Attic law, especially where claims to property were at issue, and one who for upwards of twenty years had been eminently successful as a writer of speeches for the law courts. That the young Demosthenes actually resorted to the aid of Isseus is beyond reasonable doubt. But the pseudo-Plutarch embellishes the story after his fashion. He says that Demosthenes, on coming of age, took Isseus into his house, and studied with him for four years—piying him the sum of 10,000 drachmas (about £400), on condition that Isseus should withdraw from a school of rhetoric which he had opened, and devote himself wholly to his new pupil. The real Plutarch gives us a more sober and a more probable version. He simply states that Demosthenes " employed Isseus as his master in rhetoric, though Isocrates was then teaching, either (as some say) because he could not pay Isocrates the prescribed fee of ten minse, or because he preferred the style of Isseus for his purpose, as being vigorous and astute " (Spao-T^piov /cat Travovpyov). It may be observed that, except by the pseudo-Plutarch, a school of Isseus is not mentioned,—for a notice in Plutarch need mean no more than that he had written a text-book, or that his speeches were read in schools; nor is any other pupil named. As to Demo-sthenes, his own speeches against Aphobos and Onetor (363-62 B.C.) afford the best possible gauge of the sense and the measure in which he was the disciple of Isseus ; the intercourse between them can scarcely have been either very close or very long. The date at which Isseus died can only be conjectured from his work ; it may be placed about 350 B.C.

Isaeus has a double claim on the student of Greek literature. He is the first Greek writer who comes before us as a consummate master of strict forensic controversy. He also holds a most important place in the general development of practical oratory, and therefore in the history of Attic prose. Antiphon marks the beginning of that development, Demosthenes its consummation. Between them stand Lysias and Isseus. The open, even ostentatious, art of Antiphon had been austere and rigid. The concealed art of Lysias had charmed and persuaded by a versatile semblance of natural grace and simplicity. Isseus brings us to a final stage of transition, in which the gifts distinctive of Lysias were to be fused into a perfect harmony with that masterly art which receives its most powerful expression in Demosthenes. Here, then, are the two cardinal points by which the place of Isseus must be determined. We must consider, first, his relation to Lysias ; secondly, his relation to Demosthenes.

A comparison of Isseus and Lysias must set out from the distinction between choice of words (A.e|is) and mode of putting words together (_________). In choice of words, diction, Lysias and Isseus are closely alike. Both are clear, pure, simple, concise ; both have the stamp of persuasive plainness (a<pt\eta), and both combine it with graphic power (ivdpyeia). In mode of putting words together, composition, there is, however, a striking difference. Lysias threw off the stiff restraints of the earlier periodic style, with its wooden monotony ; he is too fond indeed of antithesis always to avoid a rigid effect; but, on the whole, his style is easy, flexible, and vari-ous ; above all, its subtle art usually succeeds in appearing natural. Now this is just what the art of Isseus does not achieve. With less love of antithesis than Lysias, and with a diction almost equally pure and plain, he yet habitually conveys the impression of con-scious and confident art. Hence he is least effective in adapting his style to those characters in which Lysias peculiarly excelled,— the ingenuous youth, the homely and peace-loving citizen. On the other hand, his more open and vigorous art does not interfere with his moral persuasiveness where there is scope for reasoned remon-strance, for keen argument, or for powerful denunciation. Passing from the formal to the real side of his work, from diction and com-position to the treatment of subject-matter, we find the divergence wider still. Lysias usually adheres to a simple four-fold division— proem, narrative, proof, epilogue. Isseus frequently interweaves the narrative with the proof. He shows the most dexterous ingenuity in adapting his manifold tactics to the case in hand, and often "out-generals" (_____________?) his adversary by some novel and daring disposition of his forces. Lysias, again, usually contents himself with a merely rhetorical or sketchy proof ; Isseus aims at strict logical demonstration, worked out through all its steps. As Sir William Jones well remarks, Isaeus lays close siege to the under-standings of the jury.

Such is the general relation of Isseus to Lysias. What, we must next ask, is the relation of Isseus to Demosthenes ? The Greek critic who had so carefully studied both authors states his own view iu broad terms when he declares that "the power of Demosthenes took its seeds and its beginnings from Isseus." A closer examina-tion will show that within certain limits the statement may be allowed. Attic prose expression had been continuously developed as an art; the true link between Isseus and Demosthenes is techni-cal, depending on their continuity. Isseus had made some original contributions to the resources of the art; and Demosthenes had not failed to profit by these. The composition of Demosthenes resembles that of Isseus in blending terse and vigorous periods with passages of more lax and fluent ease, as well as in that dramatic vivacity which is given by rhetorical question and similar devices. In the versatile disposition of subject-matter, the divisions of " narrative" and "proof" being shifted and interwoven according to circum-stances, Demosthenes has clearly been instructed by the example of Isseus. Still more plainly and strikingly is this so in regard to the elaboration of systematic proof; here Demosthenes invites direct and close comparison witn Isseus by his method of drawing out a chain of arguments, or enforcing a proposition by strict legal argument. And, more generally, Demosthenes is the pupil of Isseus, though here the pupil became even greater than the master, in that faculty of grappling with an adversary's case point by point, in that aptitude for close and strenuous conflict which is expressed by the words ayav, ivaytivtos. Thus far Isseus and Demosthenes are related to each other as technical proficients in a progressive art. It might be added that there was some degree of resemblance between the natures of the two men, in so far as the intellectual character of both was marked by a certain vigorous intensity of logic. But it would be as perverse to overstate the debt of Demosthenes to Isseus as it would be unjust to rest the significance of Isseus solely or chiefly on his relation to Demosthenes. As Demosthenes holds his unrivalled place in virtue of qualities which no teacher could have communicated, so, too, the writings of Isseus have the independent value of masterpieces in their own kind.

Works. The pseudo-Plutarch, in his life of Isseus, mentions an Art of Rhetoric and sixty-four speeches, of which fifty were accounted genuine. From a passage of Photius it appears that at least the fifty speeches of recognized authenticity were extant as late as 850 A.D. Only eleven, with large part of a twelfth, have come down to us ; but the titles of forty-two others are known.

The titles of the lost speeches confirm the statement of Dionysius that the speeches of Isseus were exclusively forensic; and only three titles indicate speeches made in public causes. The remainder, concerned with private causes, may be classed under six heads :— (1) KXnpiKoi—cases of claim to an inheritance ; (2) iwiKXvpacoi— cases of claim to the hand of an heiress ; (3) SmSiKoffi'ai—cases of claim to property ; (4) anoo-rao-iov—cases of claim to the ownership of a slave ; (5) %yy{rns—action brought against a surety whose principal had made default; (6) avTu/ioo-ia. (&$ = irapaypa,<t>-li)— a special plea ; (7) (tpecris—appeal from one jurisdiction to an-other.

Eleven of the twelve extant speeches belong to class (1), the K\npiKoi, or claims to an inheritance. This was probably the branch of practice in which Isseus had done his most important and most characteristic work. And, according to the ancient custom, this class of speeches would therefore stand first in the manuscript col-lections of his writings. The case of Antiphon is parallel: his speeches in cases of homicide (tpovacoi) were those on which his reputation mainly depended, and stood first in the manuscripts. Their exclusive preservation, like that of the speeches made by Isseus in will-cases, is thus primarily an accident of manuscript tradition, but partly also the result of the writer's special pres-tige.
Classifi- Six of the twelve extant speeches are directly concerned with cation, claims to an estate ; five others are connected with legal proceedings arising out of such a claim. They may be classified thus (the name

given in each case being that of the person whose estate is in dispute) :—
I. Trials of Claim to an Inheritance (SioSiKacri'ai).
1. Or. i., Cleonymus. Date between 360 and 353 B.C.
2. Or. iv., Nicostratus. Date uncertain.
3. Or. vii, Apollodorus. 353 B.C.
4. Or. viii., Ciron. 375 B.C.
5. Or. ix., Astyphilus. 369 B.C.
6. Or. x., Aristarchus. 377-71 B.C.
II. Actions for False Witness (8ucai \pevSopLaprvpuav).
1. Or. ii., Menecles. 354 B.C.
2. Or. iii., PyiThus. Date uncertain, but comparatively late
3. Or. vi., Philoctemon. 364-63 B.C.
III. Action to Compel the Discharge of a Suretyship (cyyvqs Sua}).
Or. v., Dicseogenes. 300 B.C.
IV. Indictment of a Guardian for Maltreatment of a Ward (etcrayyePua KOKiacreai}
bpibavov). Or. xi., Hagnias. 359 B.c. V. Appeal from Arbitration to a Dicastery (exeats).
Or. xii., For Euphiletus. (Incomplete.) Date uncertain.
The speeches of Isseus supply valuable illustrations to the early Genera) history of testamentary law. They show us the faculty of adoption, char-still, indeed, associated with the religious motive in which it acter-originated, as a mode of securing that the sacred rites of the family istics, shall continue to be discharged by one who can call himself the son of the deceased. But practically the civil aspect of adoption is, for the Athenian citizen, predominant over the religious; he adopts a son in order to bestow property on a person to whom he wishes to bequeath it. The Athenian system, as interpreted by Isseus, is thus intermediate, at least in spirit, between the purely religious stand-point of the Hindu and the maturer form which Roman testamen-tary law had reached before the time of Cicero. As to the form of the speeches, it is remarkable for its variety. There are three which, taken together, may be considered as best representing the diversity and range of their author's power. The fifth, with its simple but lively diction, its graceful and persuasive narrative, recalls the qualities of Lysias. The eleventh, with its sustained and impetu-ous power, has no slight resemblance to the manner of Demosthenes. The eighth is, of all, the most characteristic, alike in narrative and in argument. Isseus is here seen at his best. No reader who is interested in the social life of ancient Greece need find Isseus dull. If the glimpses of Greek society which he gives us are seldom so gay and picturesque as those which enliven the pages of Lysias, they are certainly not less suggestive. Here, where the innermost rela-tions and central interests of the family are in question, we touch the springs of social life ; we are not merely presented with scenic details of dress and furniture, but are enabled in no small degree to conceive the feelings of the actors.

The best manuscript of Isams is in the British Museum,—Crippsianus A Manu* (=Burneianus 95), which contains also Antiphon, Andocides, Lycuigus, and script!* Dinarchus. The next best is Bekker's Laurentianus B (Florence), of the 16th " century. Besides these, he used Marcianus L (Venice), stec. 14, Vratislaviensis Z. sajc, 14, and two very inferior MSS., Ambrosianus A. 99. P (which he dis-missed after Or. i.), and Ambrosianus D. 42, Q (which contains only Or. i., ii.). Schomann, in his edition of 1831, generally followed Bekker's text; he had no fresh apparatus beyond a collation of a Paris MS. P. in part of Or. i.; but he had sifted the Aldine more carefully. Baiter and Sauppe (1850) had a new colla-tion of A, and also used a collation of Bumeianus 96, M, given by Pobson in vol. iv. of his edition (1828). C. Scheibe (Teubner, 1860) made it his especial aim to complete the work of his predecessors by restoring the correct Attic forms of words; thus (e.g.) he gives ^-yyiia for eceyva, SeHi/iev for 8e8Ca(j.ev, and the like,—following the consent of the MSS., however, in such forms as the accusative of proper names in -rjv rather than -ij, or (e.g.) the future ^av^aotLat. rather than tfravovnai, &c, and on such doubtful points as <£paTepes instead of
^paTOpes, or EiXi)0ui'as instead of EiAeiflvt'ay.
Recent Editions.—In Oratores Attici, by I. Bekker, 1823-8 ; G. E. Dobson, 1828 ;
J. G. Baiter and Hermann Sauppe. 1850. Separately, by G. F. Schomann, with
commentary, 1831. In Teubner series, by C. Scheibe, 1860. English translation
by Sir William Jones, 1779. (P.. C. J.)


On this point (as on some others which can be but briefly noticed
here) the reader is referred to the detailed treatment of the subject in
Jebb's Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isseus, vol. ii. p. 264.
This is what Dionysius means when he says that Isseus differs from Lysias—__ ___' %Mp.rgj.a TI Xzytw ____ __\ ___ eirixsipyfia (Ism. 16). Here the " enthymeme " means a rhetorical syllogism with one premiss suppressed ("curtum," Juv., vi. 449) ; " epicheireme," such a syllogism stated in full. Cf. Volkmann, Rhetorik der Oriechen und Romer, 1872, pp. 153 /.
2 Plut., De glor. Athen., p. 350 c, where he mentions TOVS 'Icro-Kpdreis __\ AvTHpwvTas ___ 'lo-aiovs among robs eV reus crxoKah __ p.cip6.Kia irpobioaffKOVTas.
3 Here he was probably influenced by the teaching of Isocrates. The forensic speech of Isocrates known as the _______ (Or. xix.), which belongs to the peculiar province of Isseus, as dealing with a claim to property (iiriSmao-ia), affords perhaps the earliest example of narrative and proof thus interwoven. Earlier forensic writers had kept the Siiiyricns and TIO-TCIS distinct, as Lysias does.

Cleon's speech iu Thuc. iii. 37, 38, works out this image with remarkable force ; within a short space we have IweVecuj hyiiv— TWV Toi&voe ay&vuv—ayoivicrri..—aywvi^ecrdai—avTayuvi^trdai—-ayu>vo9tT(!v. See Attic Orators, vol. i. 39 ; ii. 304.
For the words of Photius (cod. 263), Tovrav Se ol TO yvficiov liaprvpnOiVTcs v KaTaXeiwovrat p.6vov, might be so rendered as to imply that, besides these fifty, others also were extant. See Att. drat., ii. 311, note 2.
The second of our speeches (the Meneclean) was discovered in the Laurentian Library in 1785, and was edited in that year by Tyrwhit. In editions previous to that date, Oration i. is made to conclude with a few lines which really belong to the end of Orat. ii. (§ 47, a\\'
eTreiSh TO vpHy/ia . . . ty-n<picra.cr6*), and this arrangement is followed in the translation of Isseus by Sir William Jones, to whom our second oration was, of course, then (1779) unknown. In Oration i. all that follows the words ^jj -jrorficravTes in § 22 was first published in 1815 by Mai, from a MS. in the Ambrosian Library at Milan.

4 Of. Maine's Ancient Law, ch. vi. ; and the Tayore Law Lectures
(1870), by Herbert Cowell, lect. ix., "On the Kite of Adoption,"
pp. 208/. -Kill. — 48

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